Home Local News Sanger Elementary librarian publishes second mystery novel

Sanger Elementary librarian publishes second mystery novel

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Andy Brosig/News-Sun

Many parents play soft music, sounds of the sea or something similar to help their toddlers get to sleep.

Shanessa Gluhm’s parents gave her books-on-tape cassettes nightly to help her catch 40 winks.

“I was a voracious reader as a child,” Gluhm, the librarian at Sanger Elementary in Hobbs, told the News-Sun recently. “Before I knew what the letters were, my grandmother had books she’d read to us.

“I remember taking one from the shelf and copying it because I wanted to write a book. I’ve always had a desire to write.”

Her dreams came true not once, but twice. Gluhm published her second novel, a mystery titled “A River of Crows,” on April 18.

It tells the story of Sloan, who’s father was convicted of killing her brother on a fishing trip when the boy was just 10 years old. When Sloan returns home after 20 years, she suspects her father was wrongfully convicted of the slaying, and sets out to prove his innocence.

Gluhm’s first book, “Enemies of Doves,” was published in March 2020, just as COVID-19 descended on the country and the world.

That turned out to be a mixed blessing, she said. While people were locked down and had more time to read, the normal events and book signings to promote the novel were cancelled due to pandemic-related lockdowns, Gluhm said.

“Enemies of Doves” tells the story of two brothers who share a lifetime of secrets, including an incident in their childhood which left one with a disfiguring scar. When one of them goes missing later in life, a stranger who believes the absent brother is his grandfather, steps into the picture and attempts to learn what happened, both in the past and the present, Gluhm said.

“It’s an historical mystery,” she said. “The time period is from around World War II to the 1990s.”

Both of her books are targeted at the older-teen and older age group, Gluhm said. She let her children read them when they were of high school age.

“But they’re not in the library here at Sanger, even though every kid has asked me about them,” Gluhm said. “I told them maybe one day I’ll write a book for children.

“(Both novels) may be PG-13. There’s a bit of language and (mild) violence.”

Gluhm has always had a passion for the written word, though her degree is in paralegal studies, she said. She worked in a law office after college, but quickly learned that wasn’t for her. She then went to work at New Mexico Junior College as assistant director of the college’s financial age office.

But she didn’t like the stress of that job, either.

“People can get upset when dealing with their money,” Gluhm said. “Then I had my son and I wanted to be home with him.”

As her children grew, she’d volunteer in the school for events in the library and things like that. Gluhm learned about the operation of a school library and, when she was ready for the next step in her life, it seemed like a ready-made solution.

“When I wanted to go back to work I wanted to find something that would be on his schedule. I love kids, and I love books. (School librarian) seemed a really good fit for me.”

Even as the world — particularly education — moves more toward the digital format for everything from lessons to testing, children at the elementary still crave physical books, Gluhm said. The library at Sanger Elementary has access to digital books students can download, but they rarely are accessed, she said.

“Kids like to hold the book, turn the pages, see the pictures in it,” Gluhm said. “They’re excited to come to the library and get their hands on the books. When you read to them, they enjoy seeing the book, watching you flip the pages.”

And she knows where they’re coming from, because she shares their love of books. It almost goes without saying mystery and thrillers are her favorite genre, with the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries at, or near, the top of her list growing up.

“And I love Stephen King,” Gluhm said. “I read Stephen King when I was probably too young to be reading Stephen King.”
But her favorite is Minnesota author Allen Eskens who specializes in mystery, thriller and suspense.

Gluhm said “it was a big thrill” when Eskens agreed to read a draft of “A River of Crows” and submitted commentary for the published edition.

Gluhm has no plans to stop with two published novels, she said. The first draft of her third, tentatively titled “The Bone Next,” is complete and ready to begin winding its way through the acceptance and editing process, she said.

“It’s a legal thriller,” Gluhm said. “That’s new for me, but because I have a legal background I decided to do that.”

The story follows an attorney who works with a fictionalized version of The Innocence Project — which works to secure the release of wrongfully-convicted inmates on death row — called the Death Penalty Abolition Project. The lawyer takes the case of a man they believe was wrongfully convicted after a string of killings of teen girls.

“It’s been very interesting to research,” Gluhm said. “I contacted a couple of lawyers who helped get clients off death row (and) there’s way more to that process than I knew.

“I wanted it to be accurate. It bothers me if its not even if nobody would know.”

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